Six Takeaways from the Nike EYBL and Under Armour Association Indianapolis

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Nike EYBL and Under Armour Association made stops in the Indianapolis area this weekend during the second (and final) weekend college coaches could be out this spring for the live evaluation period. It meant that the Hoosier state was the epicenter of college basketball recruiting this weekend as most of the elite players and top programs found their way to the area at some point in time. Here’s a look at some storylines from the weekend, including a look at some of the top players in the class.

1. DeAndre Ayton remains No. 1 in the Class of 2017

The Class of 2017 has some solid star power at the top and this group also had the benefit of playing behind a deep and competitive Class of 2016 the last few years. So the top of the 2017 class was already well prepared to take the torch and run with it as a lot of stars had big performances during the last two weekends in front of college coaches.

But the 7-foot Ayton remains the most impressive long-term prospect among a group that will produce plenty of college stars and good pros. Gifted physically in ways that are seldom seen of a seven-footer, Ayton gobbles up apex rebounds over every other player in traffic and has the lateral quickness to defend smaller players on the perimeter. He’s averaging 19.7 points and 12.3 rebounds per game on 65 percent shooting the first two weekends. And if you foul Ayton, he’s making 80 percent for his free throws so far, so you can’t go to some kind of hack-a-player strategy that is often effective with centers as big and athletic as he is. With his size, touch and overall skill level, Ayton is a monster when he’s motivated to play his hardest.

Recruiting is a bit of a mystery for Ayton right now, as he mentioned that Kansas has been the school on him the hardest.

2. The group of big men behind Ayton is very strong

The next few months, Ayton will be pushed plenty by a strong group of big men. It’s an encouraging sign that other five-star centers like Mohamed Bamba, Wendell Carter, Brandon McCoy, Nick Richards and Ikey Obiagu have all had some productive outings and appear to be growing in skill level. There are also plenty of four-star centers trying to make a push up the top 50 like UConn commit Zach Brown, Arkansas commit Daniel Gafford, Texas A&M commit Mitchell Robinson and Indiana native Malik Williams.

When you also factor in that five-star center Jeremiah Tilmon is injured and Auburn commit Austin Wiley is still recovering and that is a ton of big men that currently reside around the top 50 prospects in the country.

But after this core group of centers, there appears to be a bit of a steep decline in the talent levels. Obviously, there will be plenty of times other centers can be tested against these top-tier guys over the next few months, but landing one of these big men will be a major priority for the top schools and you can see why a few schools made a strong push to land a commitment early.

3. Trevon Duval is (still) the top point guard in a weak class for floor leaders

The Class of 2016 will be great for college basketball, in-part, because the amount of ultra-talented point guards entering the fray. The top of that class was littered with potential one-and-done point guards that will start and make an immediate impact next season.

That doesn’t appear to be the case in the Class of 2017. Delaware native Trevon Duval is certainly one of the most explosive point guards to come along during the last few years and he appears to be head-and-shoulders above his point-guard peers right now. The 6-foot-3 Duval combines athleticism, a high skill level and a competitive fire that pushes him into the top five.

Behind Duval, there are a few prospects to get excited about, but nobody can push for the top spot in the class like he can at the moment.

What’s interesting to note is how some point guards could be developed over the next few months. Remember, at the high school level, a lot of taller guards are forced to play off the ball with their high school teams in order to get the most talent on the floor. Now in the grassroots setting, some of these players who were thought of as wings and shooting guards are working on point-guard skills because college coaches are either recruiting them as such, or they have the potential makeup to play with the ball in their hands. We saw this sort of thing last summer with players like Markelle Fultz and Frank Jackson working to become point guards after being dominant high school scorers and it could certainly happen again.

4. Big wings continue to be a focus of elite college programs

We’ve seen the proliferation of jumbo wings in basketball the last few years as everyone is trying to get the next Kevin Durant or Brandon Ingram to come aboard and play on the wing. It’s rare to find wings that are as tall and talented as one of the best players in the world and the potential No. 1 pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, but the Class of 2017 has some enticing options.

Five-star wings Michael Porter Jr., Kevin Knox and Billy Preston are all in or around the top ten and all of them stand at least 6-foot-8 with perimeter skills many guards would envy. There are also some other bigger wings who do different things well. Jarred Vanderbilt is still working to find his perimeter shot, but he’s an elite rebounder and very good passer from the wing. All four of those players can either move up the four and add more perimeter skill, or play at the three and become a matchup problem for smaller teams. Their versatility is why all four are five-star prospects.

5. Positional flexibility is becoming more of a focus with wings and big men

Changes in basketball the last few years have led to many coaches re-evaluating positional standards and what they’re looking for when it comes to recruiting. The Golden State Warriors have used 6-foot-6 Draymond Green at center and power forward extensively the last two seasons and had some of the greatest seasons in NBA history with a smaller lineup often leading the charge. Villanova started 6-foot-6 Kris Jenkins at power forward on its national championship team and only had one player taller than 6-foot-8 in its regular rotation.

Now we’re starting to see those former “tweeners” become assets as college coaches are figuring out better ways to get the most talented players on the floor. If you can handle the ball, pass and move laterally, it doesn’t matter as much if you are “undersized” anymore as many coaches appear keen on trying to copy the Golden State and Villanova model.

It’s resonated with players at the high school level to a degree as well. Some undersized forwards are beginning to understand how they can be properly utilized while others are still being told that they’re too small to play the traditional power forward spot. It’ll be intriguing to see how certain players fit with certain programs and how college coaches will try to put them on the floor. In the Class of 2017, players like P.J. Washington, Ira Lee and Galen Alexander will be ones to monitor with this situation because of their size and strength on the wing while also being able to play some forward in smaller lineups.

6. College coaches limiting themselves on the road is hurting the game

It’s nice that the April live evaluation period has returned with two full weekends that college coaches can evaluate players but it’s still not nearly enough time. Transfer numbers continue to be abnormally high over the last few years and one of the reasons is that college coaches don’t get a chance to properly evaluate high school players on the grassroots setting nearly enough.

With only two weekends in April and three weeks in July, this current calendar doesn’t make a lot of sense. It would be more beneficial to college coaches, and high school players, if they had more time to watch players and spread it out over a couple of months.

The back-to-back weekends and weeks that coaches are out don’t make much sense, especially when you consider that in April, college players are finishing up the school year and roster turnover is going on. For an institution that is so focused on the “student-athlete” to have full coaching staffs gone during multiple weekends late in the school year doesn’t make sense.

Why not go to a calendar where it’s one weekend in April, one weekend in May, one weekend in June and two weeks in July — with a one-week break in the middle of that July run? This would allow players to properly rest for the games coaches would be in attendance, it would allow college coaches to see players develop month-by-month and the June weekend could also allow for college coaches to see many players play with their high school teams. Now if a player is injured during a few weeks in April and July, it doesn’t kill their recruiting momentum because they could get other months to play in front of coaches.

This idea, of course, all falls on the college coaches voting to make the changes themselves. The old guard of college coaches doesn’t want to be on the road and away from their families, but it’s ultimately hurting the game if so many players are going to programs where they either aren’t good enough, or don’t fit what the coach is looking for.

College basketball broadcaster Billy Packer dies at 82

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Billy Packer, an Emmy award-winning college basketball broadcaster who covered 34 Final Fours for NBC and CBS, died Thursday. He was 82.

Packer’s son, Mark, told The Associated Press that his father had been hospitalized in Charlotte for the past three weeks and had several medical issues, and ultimately succumbed to kidney failure.

Packer’s broadcasting career coincided with the growth of college basketball. He worked as analyst or color commentator on every Final Four from 1975 to 2008. He received a Sports Emmy for Outstanding Sports Personality, Studio and Sports Analyst in 1993.

“He really enjoyed doing the Final Fours,” Mark Packer said. “He timed it right. Everything in life is about timing. The ability to get involved in something that, frankly, he was going to watch anyway, was a joy to him. And then college basketball just sort of took off with Magic Johnson and Larry Bird and that became, I think, the catalyst for college basketball fans to just go crazy with March Madness.”

Packer played three seasons at Wake Forest, and helped lead the Demon Deacons to the Final Four in 1962, but it was his work as an analyst that brought him the most acclaim.

He joined NBC in 1974 and called his first Final Four in 1975. UCLA beat Kentucky in the title game that year in what was John Wooden’s final game as coach.

Packer was also part of the broadcast in 1979 with Dick Enberg and Al McGuire when Magic Johnson’s Michigan State team beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State squad in the title game. That remains highest-rated game in basketball history with a 24.1 Nielsen rating, which is an estimated 35.1 million viewers.

Packer went to CBS in the fall of 1981, when the network acquired the rights to the NCAA Tournament. He remained the network’s main analyst until the 2008 Final Four.

In 1996 at CBS, Packer was involved in controversy when he used the term “tough monkey? to describe then-Georgetown star Allen Iverson during a game. Packer later said he “was not apologizing for what I said, because what I said has no implications in my mind whatsoever to do with Allen Iverson’s race.?

Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports, said Packer was “synonymous with college basketball for more than three decades and set the standard of excellence as the voice of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament.”

“He had a tremendous impact on the growth and popularity of the sport.” McManus said. “In true Billy fashion, he analyzed the game with his own unique style, perspective and opinions, yet always kept the focus on the game. As passionate as he was about basketball, at his heart Billy was a family man. He leaves part of his legacy at CBS Sports, across college basketball and, most importantly, as a beloved husband, father and grandfather. He will be deeply missed by all.”

Packer was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2008.

ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale took to Twitter as word of Packer’s death spread. “So sad to learn of the passing of Billy Packer who had such a passion for college basketball,” Vitale tweeted. “My (prayers) go out to Billy’s son Mark & the entire Packer family. Always had great RESPECT for Billy & his partners Dick Enberg & Al McGuire-they were super. May Billy RIP.”

College basketball analyst Fran Fraschilla tweeted: “We fell in love (with) college basketball because of you. Your voice will remain in my head forever.”

Packer was viewed as a controversial figure during his broadcasting days, often drawing the ire of college basketball fans, particularly on North Carolina’s “Tobacco Road.”

“As a kid, I was a big NC State fan growing up, and I would watch a game and the next day I’d be like, `Boy you sure have it out for NC State, don’t you?’ And he would just laugh,” Mark Packer said.

The younger Packer, who is the host of ACC PM on the ACC Network, said it didn’t matter what school – most fans felt the same way about his father.

“He would cover North Carolina game and Tar Heels fans would be like, `you hate North Carolina,”‘ Mark Packer said. “Wake (Forest) fans would be like, `you hate us.’ And Billy just sort of got a kick out of that.”

Mark Packer said that while most fans will remember his father as a broadcaster, he’ll remember him even more for his business acumen. He said his father was a big real estate investor, and also owned a vape company, among other ventures.

“Billy was always a bit of a hustler – he was always looking for that next business deal,” Packer said.

Clemson starter Galloway will miss time after surgery

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CLEMSON, S.C. — Clemson starter Brevin Galloway is expected to miss games for the 24th-ranked Tigers after having surgery on his groin area Thursday.

The 6-foot-3 Galloway has started 20 of 21 games after transferring from Boston College this past offseason.

Galloway posted on social media that he’d had the surgery. Clemson coach Brad Brownell confirmed in a text to The Associated Press that Galloway had the operation.

Galloway said in his post he will be in uniform soon. He is not expected to play at Florida State on Saturday.

A fifth-year player, Galloway has averaged 10.6 points a game this season. He’s second on the Tigers with 55 assists and 18 steals.

The Tigers (17-4) lead the Atlantic Coast Conference at 9-1 in league play.

Clemson is already down two experienced players due to injury.

Point guard Chase Hunter, who started the team’s first 18 games, has missed the past three with a foot injury.

Guard Alex Hemenway, in his fourth season, has missed the past nine games with a foot injury. Hemenway was the team’s leading 3-point shooter (27 of 54) before getting hurt.

Zach Edey has 19 points, No. 1 Purdue beats Michigan 75-70

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Zach Edey had 15 of his 19 points in the first half and Fletcher Loyer finished with 17 points to help No. 1 Purdue hold off Michigan 75-70 on Thursday night.

The Boilermakers (20-1, 9-1 Big Ten) had a 15-0 run to go ahead 41-28 lead in the first half after there were 10 lead changes and four ties, but they couldn’t pull away.

The Wolverines (11-9, 5-4) were without standout freshman Jett Howard, who missed the game with an ankle injury, and still hung around until the final seconds.

Joey Baker made a 3-pointer – off the glass – with 5.9 seconds left to pull Michigan within three points, but Purdue’s Brandon Newman sealed the victory with two free throws.

Purdue coach Matt Painter said Michigan slowed down Edey in the second half by pushing him away from the basket.

“They got him out a little more, and got him bottled up,” Painter said.

The 7-foot-4 Edey, though, was too tough to stop early in the game.

“He’s one of the best in the country for a reason,” Michigan coach Juwan Howard said. “He’s very effective, especially if he’s 8 feet and in.”

With size and skills such as a hook shot, the junior center from Toronto scored Purdue’s first seven points and finished the first half 7 of 12 from the field and 1 of 2 at the line.

“He did a great job in the first half, going to his right shoulder and using his left hand,” Painter said. “He made four baskets with his left hand which is huge.”

Freshman Braden Smith had 10 points for the Boilermakers.

Purdue’s defense ultimately denied Michigan’s comeback hopes, holding a 22nd straight opponent to 70 or fewer points.

Hunter Dickinson scored 21, Kobe Bufkin had 16 points and Baker added 11 points for the Wolverines, who have lost four of their last six games.

Dickinson, a 7-1 center, matched up with Edey defensively and pulled him out of the lane offensively by making 3 of 7 3-pointers.

“Half his shots were from the 3, and that’s a little different,” Painter said. “His meat and potatoes are on that block. He’s the real deal.”

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Boilermakers got the top spot in the AP Top 25 this week after winning six games, a stretch that followed a loss to Rutgers on Jan. 3 that dropped them from No. 1 in the poll. Purdue improved to 7-2 as the top-ranked team.

BIG PICTURE

Purdue: Edey can’t beat teams by himself and he’s surrounded by a lot of role players and a potential standout in Loyer. The 6-4 guard was the Big Ten player of the week earlier this month, become the first Boilermaker freshman to win the award since Robbie Hummel in 2008.

“Fletcher is somebody who has played better in the second half, and on the road,” Painter said.

Michigan: Jett Howard’s health is a critical factor for the Wolverines, who will have some work to do over the second half of the Big Ten season to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2015. Howard averages 14.6 points and is the most dynamic player on his father’s team.

ROAD WARRIORS

The Boilermakers were away from home for 12 of 23 days, winning all five of their road games. They won at Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan for the first time since the 1997-98 season and beat the Spartans and Wolverines on their home court in the same season for the first time in 12 years.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Hosts Michigan State on Sunday, nearly two weeks after the Boilermakers beat the Spartans by a point on Edey’s shot with 2.2 seconds left.

Michigan: Plays at Penn State on Sunday.

Miller scores 23, No. 10 Maryland tops No. 13 Michigan 72-64

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COLLEGE PARK, Md. – Diamond Miller scored 23 points, and No. 10 Maryland closed the first quarter with a 13-2 run and led the rest of the way in a 72-64 victory over No. 13 Michigan on Thursday night.

Abby Meyers contributed 12 points and 11 rebounds for the Terrapins (17-4, 8-2), who won for the 10th time in 11 games. Lavender Briggs scored 14 points and Shyanne Sellers added 13.

Maryland gained a measure of revenge after losing twice to Michigan last season – including a 20-point rout in College Park.

Leigha Brown led the Wolverines with 16 points.

Michigan (16-5, 6-4) led 13-9 in the first quarter before a three-point play by Miller started Maryland’s big run. Briggs and Faith Masonius made 3-pointers during that stretch.

The Terps pushed the lead to 16 in the third quarter before the Wolverines were able to chip away. Miller sat for a bit with four fouls, and Michigan cut the lead to seven in the fourth quarter, but the Wolverines still wasted too many possessions with turnovers to mount much of a comeback.

Michigan ended up with 24 turnovers, and Maryland had a 25-5 advantage in points off turnovers.

Miller fouled out with 2:19 remaining, but even after those two free throws, the Terps led 65-57 and had little trouble holding on.

Michigan lost for the second time in four days against a top-10 opponent. No. 6 Indiana beat the Wolverines 92-83 on Monday.

BIG PICTURE

Michigan: Whether it was against Maryland’s press or in their half-court offense, the Wolverines turned the ball over too much to score consistently. This was a lower-scoring game than the loss to Indiana, but the margin ended up being similar.

Maryland: While Miller clearly led the way, the Terps had plenty of offensive contributors. They also held Michigan to 13 points below its season average entering the game.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Wolverines have appeared in 48 straight AP polls, and although a two-loss week could certainly drop them, the quality of their opponents could save them from a substantial plunge.

Maryland is tied for 10th with an Iowa team that beat No. 2 Ohio State on Monday night. Now the Terps can boast an impressive victory of their own.

UP NEXT

Michigan: The Wolverines play their third game of the week when they visit Minnesota on Sunday.

Maryland: The Terps host Penn State on Monday night.

 

Boum, Jones lead No. 13 Xavier over No. 19 UConn, 82-79

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STORRS, Conn. – Souley Boum scored 21 points, Colby Jones added 20 and No. 13 Xavier went on the road and held off No. 19 Connecticut 82-79 Wednesday night.

The win was the 13th in 14 games for the Musketeers (17-4, 9-1 Big East) and it gave them a season sweep over the struggling Huskies (16-6, 5-6).

Jack Nunge had 12 points and Jerome Hunter added 11 for Xavier, which led by 17 in the first half and 39-24 at halftime.

Jordan Hawkins scored 26 of his 28 points in the second half for UConn, leading a comeback that fell just short.

Tristen Newton added 23 points for the Huskies, who won their first 14 games this season but have dropped six of eight since.

The Musketeers never trailed but had to withstand UConn runs that cut the lead to a single point four times in the second half.

A three-point play from Hawkins made it 78-77 with 2:40 left. But a second-chance layup from Nunge put the lead at 80-77 just over a minute later.

Newton was fouled with two seconds left by Desmond Claude, but his apparent attempt to miss his second free throw went into the basket.

Boum then hit two free throws at the other end, and Newton’s final attempt from just beyond halfcourt was well short.

Xavier jumped out to a 9-0 lead as UConn missed its first nine shots.

A 3-pointer from Zach Freemantle gave the Musketeers their first double-digit lead at 20-9, and another from Jones pushed it to 35-18.

BIG PICTURE

Xavier: The Musketeers lead the Big East, and the win over UConn was their ninth conference victory this season, eclipsing their total from last season.

UConn: The Huskies came in with a 17-game winning streak at Gampel Pavilion dating to February 2021. They fell to 1-4 against the four teams in front of them in the Big East standings. The lone win came at Gampel against Creighton.

UP NEXT

Xavier: The Musketeers continue their road trip with a visit to Creighton on Saturday.

UConn: Doesn’t play again until next Tuesday, when the Huskies visit DePaul.